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Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook by Paula Deen with Martha Nesbit; illustrated by Susan Mitchell

Paula Deen's My First CookbookPaula Deen’s My First Cookbook
By Paula Deen, with Martha Nesbit; illustrated by Susan Mitchell
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; $21.99
176 pages; ISBN-13: 978-1416950332

Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews

In her new cookbook for children, well-known chef Paula Deen introduces kids to cooking, from breakfasts to dinners and snacks in between.

With her warm, folksy style and a friendly, knowledgeable tone that’s just like the personality she shows on TV, Deen starts with the basic elements of good cooking with an eye toward making time in the kitchen a family affair. Deen’s first rule is sure to make parents feel good — "Remember, what you can do on your own depends on how old you are, so always check with your adult helper before doing anything in the kitchen by yourself." In bold red ink, there’s no mistaking her meaning, and this could go a long way in averting power struggles in the kitchen.

Paula Deen covers commonly used cooking terms like chop, pan fry, boil, garnish, and more. She also explains how to successfully measure wet and dry ingredients like flour, butter, and salt, and even trickier things like baking powder out of the can. Rounding it all out with a brief overview of how to set a table (do you remember if the glass goes on the left or the right?), good table manners, and a reminder to do the dishes, kids are ready to hit the kitchen and prepare and serve a meal from beginning to end.

Paula Deen’s recipes run the gamut from whimsical (like green eggs and ham and gelatin blocks) to the simple (like cheese toast), familiar (stone soup, complete with accompanying story, and ants on a log) to new (applewiches, which are slices of cheddar topped with peanut butter and tucked between fresh apple slices). There are holiday themed recipes, dishes to make for mom and dad, specialty beverages, and for when you want to play with your food, nonedibles like homemade clay, salt dough, and soap bubbles.

Each recipe in this hardcover, spiral-bound book starts with a labeled picture list of all the tools and kitchen utensils kids will need, and all the ingredients. Pen and ink drawings are simple and colorful and charming. The recipes are set up by "what you’ll need" and "what you’ll do." Deen’s writing style is simple and direct. As kids gain age and experience, these are recipes that they really will be able to make themselves.

Deen emphasizes in her introduction that she’s all about making memories with cooking and these illustrations give the book something of a nostalgic feel, like this is a cookbook to be used by the whole family for many years to come. And with a variety of practical and impressive dishes that will remain do-able for kids as their skills progress (mom or dad will just be able to step back a little more each time), Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook is a worthy addition to the family cookbook shelf.